Memories, there are some that will stay with you for life, while others fade with time. Sadly the bad ones tend to linger longer than the good. And when I think back through my life there are not many moments that I recall that were happy, the obvious exceptions being the birth of my children, of course. That isn’t to say that there were not (and are not) many happy moments. But I struggle to recall them usually. Speak to any psychologist and they will tell you you need to focus on the good rather than the bad, but memories are funny and it is far easier to recall the bad.
Wildlife experiences are some of the few that have stuck with me, those moments where the sheer joy of just being outside in the wilds makes you happy.Moments standing beside the river Ouse while all around me a massive flock of swooping swallows skim low of the water, hunting for newly hatching insects, neither the birds nor I caring that the rain was teeming down around me, are still strong in my mind, an experience I was privileged to be part of over a decade ago. Yet ask me to recall a great day out with friends and I’ll struggle.
Mental Health and Nature
As some people who know me will already know a number of years ago I suffered with a major bout of depression. I reached a level I never knew I could sink to. Days became difficult to cope with. Just getting out of bed was an effort. Life seemed not worth living, and things got very, very, dark for me. Fortunately I have a wonderful partner in Zoe who literally saved my life during that period.
It was a period of my life where I was drinking more than I should; socialising more than I could afford; and generally doing the things that were not conducive to my mental health. Thinking back on that time now it was also a time where I had taken a step back from spending time out in nature.
As time has moved on, I am now in a very good place with my mental health. Medication helped me out of that rut. I have also learnt that my mental health is very much linked to time spent outside. Spending time, often alone, in nature recharges my batteries, it keeps me sane, and it affects my moods.
If I am unable to find time to explore my local nature reserves, or spend time out experiencing nature in some way I start to feel hemmed in, I can feel darker forces exerting their pressure on me, I’m quicker to react to annoyances, find myself more aggressive, am quicker to snap at people and generally not great to be around.
I know I am not alone here, in fact links between good mental health and nature are becoming ever clearer. A recent publication by natural England that the government seem to be taking quite seriously reiterates this: A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care.
I’m lucky, I got through my mental health issues and now know how to keep them at bay. But with mental health affecting 1 in 4 of us in the UK it is important that those of us who have suffered are open and honest about things. And that we find a way to help people recover.
Personally I think enjoying nature is a great way to achieve this.